Body Language

Send the Right Signals With Your Body Language

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I’m doing a lot of job interviewing and want to be certain my body language doesn’t cost me an offer. How can I be sure I’m sending the right signals?

A: Thinking about how your body language might affect your ability to get a job offer is a good start. You make impressions on people at the organization—either good or bad—very early on in the interview process. Even when you get out of your car in the parking lot, try to walk with confidence to the front door.

Many recruiters ask for feedback from the receptionist who greets visitors when they arrive. Be sure you are professional, polite, and friendly with the receptionist or whoever greets you.

You make impressions on people at the organization—either good or bad—very early on in the interview process.

This may seem like a small thing, but when you sit in the lobby to wait for the recruiter, put your briefcase or purse to your left, either on the floor or in the chair. This is so that when the recruiter comes to take you in for the interview, you can pick up your belongings with your left hand and easily shake hands with your right hand. (Don’t forget to give a firm, but not bone-crushing, handshake.)

If you have a seating choice between a straight-back chair or a soft sofa or chair, always take the straight-back one; it is easier to sit up straight and easier to get out of when the interview is over. Sit back in the chair. It may seem like a good idea to sit on the edge of the seat to show your interest, but in fact, it’s better to sit with your back against the chair. Your upright posture will show confidence.

A few mistakes to avoid:

  • Make good eye contact with the recruiter or hiring manager, but don’t stare.
  • Don’t cross your arms across your chest. It makes you appear defensive.
  • Don’t nod your head at everything the interviewer says.
  • Don’t fidget. Try to sit as quietly as possible, but it is perfectly acceptable to gesture when appropriate and to move in your chair when you’re making a point.

One final piece of advice: Try to match your facial expression to your tone and your topic. For example, if you’re sharing an example of a major failure in your career, this is not the time to smile.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR,The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook and the latest book—The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].

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